How you see yourself has a tremendous impact on how you teach your students. If you see yourself as free, then examples of freedom will unfold in front of you. These include taking risks, opening to new ways of learning, offering ideas, problem solving, working beyond expectations, respecting individual differences, working independently, sharing openly, and getting along better with others. Witnessing these reflections naturally alters your teaching. However, you cannot witness what you don’t see. If you are free, you no longer need to cope or survive the experiences of your day. You become less encumbered by what you are working towards, what is expected of you, and what you are attempting to prevent. This is replaced by a growing interest in what is happening inside you in the exact moment. The present moment is your greatest treasure. The more energy you generate, the less likely you are to resist, or control what is happening around you.
This energy is different from the energy you use to teach or complete tasks. It originates from inside and is expanded through focus and awareness. To begin this journey, you must see yourself as already free, and with that freedom springs honour, truth, effectiveness, and a deeper connection to your love of teaching.
Are you repeating or teaching?
The energy you choose to invest in is the energy that will most likely be repeated. If your thoughts are coloured with deficiency the energy generated from those thoughts is likely to be repeated. For example, imagine thinking I don’t get paid enough for what I do. This thought generates energy, which contributes to your belief system. If you think this thought over and over, you may start to believe that your worth is based on how much money you make. Accordingly, an administrator (who gets paid more money) is worth more than a teacher. This kind of belief system erodes self-esteem and
contributes to the development of cultural myths.
Without awareness, the energy of your belief system may imitate itself at some point in your day. Could the disappointment of your paycheque be related to the disappointment you feel about a student’s work? The power
of the subconscious mind has been studied by psychologists and scientists extensively throughout history. In your mind, you are teaching. However, in your subconscious mind, you may also be reiterating your inner thoughts and beliefs. Chris Howard, author and co-founder of The Academy of Wealth and Achievement, states, “Perception is projection.” This means how you handle situations in your day is highly connected to the experiences of your inner atmosphere.
The process of cultivating freedom lies within your own self-awareness. This book leads you through the process from the viewpoint of working in an educational setting. Trust the process. Trust that your interest in this book is enough. Allow the energy generated from your interest to lead the way. Along the way, you may encounter speed bumps. A speed bump is a feeling or sense that encourages you to pause while you’re reading, perhaps to digest the material. Each speed bump is there for a reason. Try not to rush through them as the speed bumps are linked to moving through potential roadblocks. Roadblocks are feelings that are held back or pushed away; speed bumps, however, are your awareness of the roadblocks. Moving through roadblocks is deeply powerful. Moving through your roadblocks in an educational community is transformational.
Below I have identified possible roadblocks as power myths and power suckers. Power myths are beliefs and perceptions that are learned. Power suckers are actions, reactions, and habitual responses that may occur passively or actively. Passive responses typically take place in your head in the form of self-talk. Active responses are what you choose to do with those thoughts. Everyone experiences power myths or power suckers. It doesn’t matter where or why they exist. What matters is how they are maintained. When myths and suckers are left unspoken, and are never truly allowed to rise to a conscious level, you may feel held back or inhibited from being able to function from your highest potential.
As you review each myth, notice how you feel and if you can resonate in any way. Listen to yourself as you read each myth either out loud or silently. Notice the speed and tone of your voice as well as any thoughts that come up. Each myth is followed by an illustration of truth. The purpose is to show you how to see each myth in another way.
Power Myth: I have no choice
Truth: You always have a choice.
Power Myth: Being in your power means you are very laid back and never get angry.
Truth: Being in your power means you are real. You have real feelings. However, your feelings do not define you, your values, competence, or your belief system.
Power Myth: Your students’ progress reflects your power as a teacher.
Truth: Your true power is not based on outcome of others but in the way you chose to see the process.
Power Myth: There is only one way to teach and one way to learn.
Truth: Appreciating learning styles creates capable students and teachers.
Power Myth: Assessments allow you to see where your students are weak and where you are failing.
Truth: Assessments serve as tools for knowledge, communication, and setting goals.
Power Myth: I know I am powerful if I am popular.
Truth: Teaching is not a popularity contest. Worth based on numbers is only an illusion of power. Feedback from others is simply an opinion.
Power Myth: You are what you do.
Truth: It is not about what you do but who you are.
Power Myth: When everyone is happy, then I can be happy.
Truth: Happiness is a feeling, becoming your own source of inspiration is a mindset.
Power Myth: If I had more time, I could do better.
Truth: Time is a roadblock that leads to the power sucker doubting one’s abilities.
Power Myth: Power is the ability to survive all situations.
Truth: Power is the ability to move through all situations.
Treat power myths as a community journal. Write down your myths and consider opening up a dialogue of myths among your colleagues. You may want to temporarily hang up a blank poster board with two columns in the teacher’s room. On one side have individuals anonymously state their myths and on the other side have them state their truth. Writing myths and replacing them with truths loosens the grip they hold over you. Community journals are a way to share courage and wisdom. Individuals who may not be ready, or who are unable to truly see the undercurrent of myths, may witness them more easily through others.
Your greatest power sucker is when you think too much and your thoughts are predominately stressful. Thinking and stress are the catalyst of many power suckers, a few of which I have listed below. Being able to distinguish power sucker thoughts from thoughts that boost your awareness not only saves you time and energy, but offers you more time and energy. If you really stop and notice the amount of time devoted to thinking, rethinking, or even dwelling on certain thoughts, it explains why you may feel squeezed for time. Recognizing power suckers is a way to cut the time you spend on them in half, maybe more. Here’s an example. Imagine you had to make a decision about whether to reschedule a field trip. Typically, you may spend time being indecisive about the weather, student reactions, scheduling difficulties, parental complaints, transportation, etc. Now, knowing that over-thinking is a power sucker, you may choose to reschedule the field trip, notify the people that need to know, and then move on. No dwelling, no second guessing, just a clear response to what needs to be done at that moment. One of the greatest pieces of advice I ever received when I was struggling over whether to accept another job, was to make my decision and not look back. Second guessing steps over your inner voice causing you to hang on to the past. Watch for the moments when your mind drifts back or launches forward. This book shows you how training yourself to be in the moment offers you energy, peace, trust in yourself, and yes, time.
Below are illustrations of feelings and behaviours that may lead into power suckers: talking, gossip, and doubt. As you explore them you may notice how one power sucker breeds another. For example, stress breeds thinking and too much thinking may lead to gossip. I must confess, my first few drafts of power suckers were a fairly comprehensive list. It wasn’t until I finished the last chapter that I realized I had sucked the process away from you. By giving you the answers (which are my opinions based on my personal experiences) I was removing you from the process of liberating yourself from
myths and suckers. The examples below illustrate how suckers work in partnership with myths. As always, feel free to add to this list on your own or among others. Included are Try This! practices that will help you with the liberation process.
Talking is one way to convey and teach information. However, speaking unconsciously may drain you of valuable energy, reinforcing the power myth: There is only one way to teach and one way to learn. Learning to transform your speech into conscious communication builds self-awareness, comprehension, and rapport with your students. When talking evolves into lecturing, over-explaining, or continuously repeating the same things, it is similar to having a slow leak in a tire. The tire still may work, however, over time it will become less reliable. Have you ever witnessed someone speaking to students who appear to be distracted or disinterested in what the teacher has to say? Unconscious speech is something that grows out of habit or in reaction to stress.
Power suckers slowly suck you out of the present moment, disconnecting you from your mind, body, and spirit (roadblock). When this happens you may say things out of reactivity. Once in reactive mode your potential to read and respond to your students is spared at the expense of your own energy. Recognizing the difference between reactive
speech and conscious speech is like lifting the shade on a window. It sheds light, allowing you to see situations and relationships with your students clearly while feeding you the benefits of consciousness.
The process of developing conscious speech includes a look at how talking may be draining you or diminishing your effectiveness. When it comes to personal development there is no end or limitation; everyone can benefit from a look at their own speech. Below are characteristics that clarify the difference between the two. As you read through them notice
how conscious speech is more rooted in the present moment. Conscious speech allows you to have a deeper experience with yourself and others. It stems from having a solid foundation. Unconscious speech stems more from the notion of getting it done.
» Speaking quickly or attempting to provide a lot of information in a short period of time.
» Rushing explanations, questions, or comments.
» Using the same tone, volume, or pitch of voice.
» Repeating the same words or explaining things the same way each time (e.g. always starting with, “Boys and girls…”
» As you speak you are aware of your body and breath. For example, you may notice your feet standing on the floor or the
location of your breath in your chest.
» You’re able to scan the room and read the body language and facial expressions of your students (without judgment).
» You vary your voice tone. For example, you may consciously lower your voice to encourage a calming atmosphere.
» You intentionally pause between words or sentences allowing a moment for the material to sink in, or an opportunity for
questions and comments.
» Your directions are clear and concise.
» You ask open-ended questions.
» You watch your assumptions or pay attention to the facts as opposed to mind reading.
Ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions invite presence and connection into the process, often sparking insight and dialogue. They help you get to know who your students are.
» If you had all the time you wanted what would you create?
» How are you prepared for the next steps?
» What is your plan?
» Where are you in the process?
» What strategies work best for you?
» How did you prepare in your head for this assignment?
» What are your thoughts?
» How do you feel?
» What do you notice?
» What do you think?
» Tell me about your picture.
» Tell me one thing I might not know about you.
» What is your passion?
» If you had a wish what would it be?
Gossip works hand in hand with the myth “I know I am powerful if I am popular.” It is a learned behaviour that may be reinforced through media, family, peers, and community. It’s a way people compare themselves to others and cope with pressure.
If gossip is strong in the school environment it’s a pretty good indication that anxiety levels are high. Gossip promotes perfection, paranoid behaviour, tension and low self-esteem, all of which easily lead to miscommunication.
Conversely, less gossip indicates that people are paying more attention to how they connect to themselves and others. Partnership, creativity, and teamwork all thrive in environments based on connection. Below is an outline of a four-step process for working through the roadblocks of gossip. You can apply this process to any roadblock (myth or sucker). Notice how speed bumps are an opportunity for consciousness.
1. Speed bumps are your inner brake pedal. Think about the way you go over a speed bump. Typically, you take the time to
slow down and feel the motion of the bump. Treat gossip the same way: pause and feel the motion of gossip. Pay attention
to how it impacts you inside. Does it elevate your heart rate, creating tension, or do you feel an electrical charge from it? Just notice. Now notice the motion outside of you. Notice the body language of others, colours in the room, shadows etc.
2. Listen to the gossip in your head. Are you comparing yourself or situations to each other? If you find yourself judging, state the word and feel the energy and motion of judgment. Keep it light. Talk aloud to your speed bumps. Say “thank you,
speed bump for bringing me back to the moment.” If the word energy does not help you shift, Dr. Zoe Marae recommends
calling it a word that discourages you from judging yourself, such as broccoli. What you call it doesn’t matter; you noticing your thoughts does.
3. Experience the energy of the roadblock (gossip). Experiencing the energy of a roadblock is like taking a shower. When you’re in the shower you’re most likely feeling the temperature of the water, water pressure, and sensations on your skin.
4. Notice when you apply the above steps that the amount or frequency of gossip around you dissipates. Again this process may be applied to any roadblock.
Jane met with a regular lunch group for almost the entire year. The group met at the same time daily in the same classroom. Often what seemed an innocent gathering turned into a circle of complaining and sarcasm. Individuals who walked by would often hear the group laughing and looking over their shoulders to see if anyone was coming. Most individuals outside of the group ignored what was happening. However, the dynamics from the group seemed to contribute to an atmosphere of distrust and separation from others. When Jane applied the four-step process to her lunch gatherings she received much insight about herself, including mistaking gossip as connection. Through awareness of her inner brake pedal (speed bump) Jane was able to connect with others through what was happening inside of her rather than through gossip. This awareness allowed Jane to view her students in a new light. When gossip occurred in the classroom Jane no longer ignored it or lectured her students about it. Instead she chose to teach her students about the value of their own speed bumps.
Teacher’s Room. Consider eating somewhere individuals are encouraged to be mindful of what they say. Be open to having conversations with individuals you may not typically interact with. Pay attention to the time of day, location, and topics that generate gossip. Ask yourself how you can maintain integrity during those times? Author Amy Ahlers suggests you let people know you’re doing a “gossip cleanse.” She suggests replacing gossip with good talk, such as words
of inspiration or positive statements. She also reminds people to include all gossip in this practice (even the gossip about celebrities).
When myths such as if I had more time I could do better and I have no choice permeate the atmosphere the shadows of stress and doubt surface. I choose doubt to focus on because it depletes the soul, meaning it disconnects you from connecting to your source of strength. The truth is, as you will learn in chapters two and three, that you always have a choice when it comes to your sensory system. You decide how and in what way you would like to focus your senses. Your students also have a choice. Your job is not only to present choices but to step out of the way once choices are made (unless of course the choice may cause harm). The example below illustrates the sucker of doubt. Notice how the prevention specialist chose to step out of the way rather than try to fix or make the teacher feel better. See how this
led to greater insight on the teacher’s part.
Prevention specialist, Cindy Horgan remembers volunteering in a classroom to support an activity “Celebrating Fall.” The teacher asked if Cindy would lead the project. Cindy chose to make an apple pie with the preschool class. The classroom watched while Cindy gathered the materials and directed the project. During the process Cindy could sense that her less structured teaching style put the teacher on edge. The teacher stood with her arms crossed, interacting with the students only when she thought they were misbehaving or not paying attention. The final product looked like a hodgepodge quilt of crust.
The teacher later confided in Cindy about her personal struggle with the process. Not only was it difficult to let go, but in that moment she found herself doubting her own abilities. Cindy’s ability to move at ease reflected the teacher’s own feelings of unease. Her initial reaction was to try to stop the unease (doubt) by controlling the behaviour of her students.
The situation above is not about what went wrong. It is more an illustration of what can grow from the sucker of doubt. The goal is not to eliminate power suckers but rather to get to know them by allowing them to play out with awareness. The process of developing your strength and awareness naturally dissolves suckers. Like development the process of working through suckers has no end. Suckers do not change. However, with awareness you change. With practice and consciousness suckers lose their charge.
The emotional roller coaster
Without awareness power suckers take you on an unconscious emotional roller coaster ride. One minute you may feel confident, the next a bit unsteady. You may also witness this emotional roller coaster ride in your students. History shows that many of us have learned to become accustomed to things worsening before they improve. Take the example
of studying for a test. How many of us have learned that you have to get through the hard part that is studying before you can get the reward of good grades? This kind of teaching diminishes the power of process and trains you and your students to believe that relief and freedom come solely from outcome.
Smoothing out the roller coaster ride of emotions requires presence and a willingness to listen to your internal story. I’ve been reading self-help books and attending wellness seminars since I was a teenager. My mother was so fearful that events in my life would lead me to a dark place that she purchased every book in print as well as audio on learning how to love
myself. The emotional roller coaster of ups and downs did not fully click until a recent experience.
I woke up one morning at 4:30 a.m. and started thinking about my book. By 4:45 a.m. I was tiptoeing out of bed to see if I could sneak in an hour of writing before my husband and children woke up. The days had been so filled with my children’s activities that I had been struggling to find another way. Once I got in front of my computer the words weren’t coming. I was tired and regretted my decision to get out of bed. By 6 a.m. the house was starting to wake up and I found myself standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open. That’s when my stories (my imagination) started. In my mind I created the story of my day. There’s no milk and no eggs, guess I will be going to the grocery store today. That means no gym time for me and right now I feel so tired I probably won’t have any writing time either. Everyone else in this house seems to have the freedom to take care of themselves except for me.
My inner thoughts continued as I served breakfast, fully expecting my family to be unappreciative of my cooking and prepared their lunches. They started to wonder, what is wrong with mom. Before I knew it unfriendly words were being exchanged between my husband and me. Later that morning when I was in the shower, a light bulb went off in my head. I had done exactly what I was writing about. I had learned that I need to suffer before things get better.
Throughout the day I closed my eyes and tried to imagine the world of a teacher. What kind of stories might go through a teacher’s head? When I was a school psychologist, I remember working on a report in my office. Before I knew it a staff member would appear in my office looking for support. One of the stories I created in that moment was, Guess I won’t
have time to finish that report today. I thought of a receptionist I used to work with who would hang a sign on her desk stating, “I am working on payroll.”Everyone knew not to bother her if they wanted to get paid.
Author Geneen Roth writes about this in her book Lost and Found: One Woman’s Story of Losing Her Money and Finding her Life. In it she states, “One of our main (and usually unspoken) beliefs is that it is only through shame, judgment, and deprivation that we truly change.”
What I discovered that morning was that it is not so much what is happening in the moment that sends us on a ride but rather the stories that are created in our minds. I convinced myself that I was deprived of time for myself. Stories or self-talk that generalize moments or create black or white thinking keep you locked into the ride preventing you from ever really experiencing anything fully. Below are words or phrases you may hear in your own inner stories. Think of them as a ticket that gets you on the ride to the roller coaster. If you do not chose to take the ride, or if you would like to get off the ride all you have to do is pause (speedbump) and allow yourself to feel your feelings from beginning, middle, end, and beyond. Try not to put end points on your feelings. Pay attention to your tickets (thoughts, stories, imagination). Below are some examples:
Create a word wall of “Right now,” I have” or “Right now, I am.” When I looked into my refrigerator all I saw was what I did not have. Imagine if everyone began (and ended) their day focusing on what they do have in the exact moment they are in. For example, I have: my breath, choices, warmth, a place to teach. Focusing on what you have alters your perception allowing you to see things as they truly are.
photo courtesy boletin